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Thread: Is Our Culture Ready for the Trashcan?

  1. #16
    audaces fortuna iuvat Scoggy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emil Miller View Post
    So in answer to your question: Is Our Culture Ready for the Trashcan?
    The answer is no....it's already there.
    I couldn't agree more.

    Culture (in the States at least) has become a tragic toilet of quick sarcasm and unchecked vulgarity that is not only immature but destructive.

    I can't get on any online gaming venue without being subjected to "your mom" cracks or just blatant profanity and other sexual onomatopoeia as a substitute for anything that could be productive or beneficial. I understand that this may not be everyone's experience, and that it is just one area of analysis, but it has become so prominent an issue on the internet that I believe it to be a valid example.

    One of my sociology professors told us the other day that "beer and video games" is often a title now imposed upon the stage of life of American males age 22 up to 30. What ever happed to carpe diem? I never imagined sitting at home playing Halo and binge drinking to be "the prime of life."

    I believe that the only way to start a change is to have such an influence on the generations to come as to encourage a more valuable way of culture--a more valuable way of life.
    "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." - V, V for Vendetta

  2. #17
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Aunt Shecky... unfortunately the line you cited was made by Hanns Johst, the Nazi poet laureate and often repeated by Hermann Goering.

    Seriously, the notion that we are in the state of cultural decline has been around from time immemorial. I remember a quote in one of John Barth's essays in which a writer bemoaned the fact that he was born too late. Everything of merit had already been achieved, he declared, and the present is but one long slow decline into T.S. Elit's "whimper". The writer? An Egyptian predating Homer.

    One thing that one might do to remember is that the finest art... that which has survived the ages... is not representational of the time in which the artist lived. Fine art, poetry, literature, "serious music" has always been limited to but a small audience. Seriously, today Dante, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Mozart, Michelangelo, Rubens, Brunelleschi etc... have a far larger audience of admirers than they ever enjoyed during their lifetime. This would suggest that culture is not fully in decline.

    I will agree with the notion that there are periods of great vitality and innovation in the arts (and in each individual art form) and there are periods that are not so productive. The Renaissance, and Modernism (from 1870-1939) are surely among the greatest periods of innovation in history. The Rococo was rather weak comparatively in the art of painting... but there were brilliant exceptions. On the other hand, the same period can lay claim to the late works of J.S. Bach and Handel as well as Haydn and Mozart as well as writers such as Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, Goethe and the birth of the English novel not to forget Kant. Are we living in a period of ascendancy of decline? Is this easy to tell? We may be seeing an economic/political shift... but this does not immediately equate to an artistic decline. The art of Rome in decline or "decadence" is often far more interesting than of Rome at the peak of the Republic:







    The same is surely true of the fin de siecle in Vienna. The years 1880-WWII represent the decline of Vienna as a world power: the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The period is commonly referred to as the period of the Viennese "decadence"... but what a "decadence" it was:

    Gustav Klimt:





    the Vienna Opera:



    the architecture of Otto Wagner:





    the design of the Viennese Secession:



    Adolf Loos, the "father" of Modernist architecture:



    Egon Schiele... one of the precursors to German Expressionism:





    to say nothing of the poet, Georg Trakl, the playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the "father" of psychology, Sigmund Freud, and such composers as Gustav Mahler, Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Erich Korngold, Alexander Zemlinsky, as well as the founders of Modern classical music: Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and Alban Berg.

    Some "decadence" indeed!

    Last Wednesday I covered a Y9 class. I handed out about 7 pens of my own (because most students can't be bothered to bring their own equipment) and within 5 minutes they were all smashed up. One lad had stuck his in the ceiling, I didn't get a pen back. A typical thing.

    So yes, I agree with Brian, we are already well and truly here.


    Neely... I understand you thoughts considering the context. I live with such daily myself. But do you imagine that had the Elizabethan English thought to have placed all the children of the peasants in public schools... and taken away any power of behavioral enforcement (fear of those in charge) that the situation would have been any different? I think we have a lot of illusions of what life was like in the past based upon art... which never bothered itself with the realities of life for the masses. Highway robbery, rape, murder, etc... were surely far more prevalent in past generations. Our notion of decline is based upon the fact that the news reported upon by our immediate predecessors... our father's and grandfather's generation... was sanitized to hide the ugliness. As a kid I watched reruns of Leave it to Beaver and the Little Rascals which never once let on that in America there were such things going on as lynchings and institutionalized racism, McCarthyism and police enforced attacks and killings of those involved in attempts at organized labor, internments of Japanese-Americans, out-of-wedlock pregnancies involving sister going to live with Aunt Sophie in Iowa for a few months, etc...

    I was just at the opera yesterday, packed house full of people from all different walks of life. If you think cultural venues were like that 100 years ago you're delusional.

    Exactly! I share my art studio with one Chinese guy, a Korean, and older Jewish artist. Not so long ago we had two other members: one black artist and an older woman. The group of us often eat out together in the local Chinese/Thai/Palestinian restaurants, and attend art exhibitions and even concerts together. The idea that we should not attend or like the symphony or opera (or blues or jazz) or think of becoming artists because we are of the wrong race, religion, or social class never even enters our thoughts. How true would this have been only a generation ago?

    Culture (in the States at least) has become a tragic toilet of quick sarcasm and unchecked vulgarity that is not only immature but destructive.

    What do you imagine the popular culture of masses during the Renaissance was like? Do you have the illusion that they were all reading Boccaccio and Dante, listening to Gesualdo, Johannes Ockeghem, and Monteverdi, looking at Michelangelo and Jan van Eyck and attending plays by Machiavelli?

    As for vulgarity? How do we measure that? There are any number of examples of vulgarities... sexual and scatological... to be found in various Greek and Roman writers, in Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Swift. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester is known for his nearly pornographic poems, while the great German poet/composer/troubadour, Oswald von Wolkenstein, is notorious for his erotic songs, especially Ain Graserin, in which he sings of how the light striking the public hair of a young bathing maiden inspires him to seduce her there on the spot.

    I have little doubt that humanity is just as noble and spiritual and high-minded... and just as vulgar, crude, and low-minded as it ever was.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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  3. #18
    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scoggy View Post
    I couldn't agree more.

    Culture (in the States at least) has become a tragic toilet of quick sarcasm and unchecked vulgarity that is not only immature but destructive.

    I believe that the only way to start a change is to have such an influence on the generations to come as to encourage a more valuable way of culture--a more valuable way of life.
    It is not only in the States but in western society in general. The immaturity is referred to in the link's quote from Corinthians and the destructiveness is evidenced by the nihilism that infests what used to be called artistic endeavour but since the end of WW11 has become so, with a few exceptions, in name only. I have written some books, in one of which a character says: "They have ushered in the age of the common man and in consequence everything has become commonplace."
    In order to have an influence on future generations, as you have suggested, you will have to get past the people who sell and propagate the trash that has been mentioned elsewhere in this thread.

    Or to quote another book: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

  4. #19
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lokasenna View Post
    All I'm demanding is the right to make a value-judgment. But, it is no surprise to me that, in an age when all artistic expression is taken as equal, the art that floats to the top is most salacious, most populist, and, often as a result, most horrible.
    Who's stopping you from making a value judgment?

  5. #20
    Freed by your indulgence deryk's Avatar
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    Who was it that said the United States skipped ahead straight to decadence without bothering to stop at any other points of cultural evolution?
    "My Soul, do not seek eternal life, but to exhaust the realm of possibility." -Pindar

  6. #21
    Captain Azure Patrick_Bateman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deryk View Post
    Who was it that said the United States skipped ahead straight to decadence without bothering to stop at any other points of cultural evolution?
    That'll be Oscar Wilde's marvellous line "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between"

    or something similar
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  7. #22
    www.markbastable.co.uk MarkBastable's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emil Miller View Post
    ...the destructiveness is evidenced by the nihilism that infests what used to be called artistic endeavour but since the end of WW11 has become so, with a few exceptions, in name only. I have written some books...

    ....I had a question at this point. But - no matter - carry on,,,
    Last edited by MarkBastable; 03-20-2011 at 06:12 PM.

  8. #23
    Captain Azure Patrick_Bateman's Avatar
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    I think this demise of culture is a fallacy. Never before has there been the diversity of audiences at ballets, operas and symphonies. I attended 3 ballets in February - albeit in Bristol - and there was even a man in tracksuit bottoms (that's sweat pants to you Americans.) Now that's progress for culture

    But seriously I agree with much of what StLukes said.
    Latest Blog: An Impassioned and Immediate Response to Dan Hodges, Political Writer, Daily Telegraph.
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  9. #24
    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    I want to ask what has society become when we have the need for notices such as this?
    I agree, and am appalled at notices in public hospitals advising that no weapons are allowed inside and that, as a result, there is a security door and guard to check.

    Is that a sign of declining culture, or just larger population thence more scumbags? I tend to think the latter, but I also don't think it has a bearing on cultural decline.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    The other day I overheard a teaching assisstant discussing a target for a student involving the same thing - a "target" to try not to verbally abuse teachers. The whole thing is sick.
    Not all that new, either. I recall with some shame how my classmates and I drove a teacher to attempt suicide in the early 1970s by continually taunting him.

    Now, regarding the F word:

    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    Edit: Also, that article is nonsense, Leo let slip the word accidentally; this guy is making it out to be a master marketing campaign. Ridiculous, because no one in this thread would care or even distinctly remember the incident if the article wasn't posted, because the use of **** is so God damn mundane these days.
    Correct. Not to mention, profanity has drifted in and out of favour since language was first started.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick_Bateman View Post
    I think this demise of culture is a fallacy....

    But seriously I agree with much of what StLukes said.
    Bingo! And it makes nice change that I agree with St Lukes!

    Seriously, the notion that we are in the state of cultural decline has been around from time immemorial.
    Go to work, get married, have some kids, pay your taxes, pay your bills, watch your tv, follow fashion, act normal, obey the law and repeat after me: "I am free."

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  10. #25
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    Here's the citation for the quotation, actually in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, p.283, #8: "Whenever I hear the word 'culture' . . .I release the safety-catch on my pistol." Schlageter (1934) I.i. (1934)
    "often attributed Goering"

    Quote Originally Posted by Emil Miller View Post
    I could have written it myself but not on the evidence of some actress showing off, because we are not entering an Age of Vulgarity, we've, been there for at least 40 years. The following extract from Stanley Crouch's article is all that needs to be said, the text from Corinthians being particularly pertinent, but there's too much money to be made out of keeping people childish so I doubt that it will change.


    So in answer to your question: Is Our Culture Ready for the Trashcan?
    The answer is no....it's already there.
    Toynbee author of a 12-volume book of history, would agree with you, as well as James Burnham, author of
    The Suicide of the West.


    Quote Originally Posted by Lokasenna View Post
    In the thread on snobbishness, I made a point of saying that that which is popular is not necessarily (indeed, not usually) good. Vulgarity and obscenity pander to the lowest form of idiocy, but are thus most widely accessible - there is no effort involved in the consumption.

    I don't want to get into specifics, and thus potentially risk the wrath of Serious Cat by getting into contemporary politics, but I honestly believe that the rise of junk culture is the result of profoundly wrong attempts at social engineering. Social mobility has ground to a halt because, these days, we place no value judgement on a cultural hierarchy. It doesn't matter if a child in a deprived area can read, because he has other, equally valid, methods of expression. It doesn't matter if he isn't exposed to, say, Beethoven's 9th symphony, because it has the same validity as the rap music (with its frequent messages of physical and sexual obscenity) that his local area produces.

    For the last few decades, the intellectual movement among the intelligensia has been to promote a wholesale message of nonjudgementalism.
    I agree with much of what you say, except rather than a product of a thoroughly ineffective, namby-pamby, non-vigorous school system.

    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    .

    Regarding the original question, I didn't like Stanley Crouch's article about Melissa Leo. My value judgment.

    Despite the headline, Stanley Crouch's article was not totally about Melissa Leo, but her faux pas at the Oscars ceremony is a system of something larger that is affecting our culture as a whole. Crouch just used the incident as an example. I just spent many days defending a LitNet post because my fellow LitNutters took issue with my choice of examples, but just the same, I agree with Crouch's assessment of our junk culture.

  11. #26
    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Thinking back to teachers made me recall another thought from school - this one in the late 1960s, when one of my teachers said that we were living in the end of days then. She believed permissiveness of the age signalled that western culture was in the same decline as Rome's and it would be all over soon.

    I didn't have the heart to tell her about lead plumbing and our culture, such as it is, still seems to be hanging in there.

    One further thought: it actually pleases me that culture itself has expanded to embrace many indigenous cultural icons and styles. Maori culture in NZ was limited to very small access up until the 1980s, while it is now the predominant artistic culture we have.
    Go to work, get married, have some kids, pay your taxes, pay your bills, watch your tv, follow fashion, act normal, obey the law and repeat after me: "I am free."

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  12. #27
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post

    Despite the headline, Stanley Crouch's article was not totally about Melissa Leo, but her faux pas at the Oscars ceremony is a system of something larger that is affecting our culture as a whole. Crouch just used the incident as an example. I just spent many days defending a LitNet post because my fellow LitNutters took issue with my choice of examples, but just the same, I agree with Crouch's assessment of our junk culture.
    It may be my biases coming from a scientific background, but I have this sense that if one's example does not demonstrate the point you are trying to make than it is likely you are drawing false conclusions about what you are trying to demonstrate. If a specific example can not even adequately represent what you think is happening, then why should a reader trust you about your generalized observations.

    Edit: That being a general "you" not directed at your person, Aunty.
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  13. #28
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    What Voltaire had to say.

    Stlukes makes some very good points. History forgets the mundane, which is why past cultures usually look better.

    Someone mentioned Bach - I think it's important to note that the church he composed for was at least a bit offended by his preferred flamboyant style on the organ. In some way, his music did not meet their standards. Now he's at the pinnacle of high-brow society.
    Last edited by Cunninglinguist; 03-20-2011 at 06:44 PM.
    Dare to know

  14. #29
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    In this thread, there seems to be a sort of range of issues congealing around Crouch's article, and the general idea of a vulgarization of culture. Crouch is, in other instances, quite critical of vulgarity in art. But he doesn't address the issue here. A reader of his essays would know that he would join this particular attack with his attacks on the art itself, in the grand scheme of things, of course, but this article is about replacing an aristocracy with a democratic system in which people value "popularity" (among "the masses" or something like that) over "quality". He sees Leo taking the low road, in order to get attention. Me, I'm going to use some more bold text.

    Here are some separate discussions that might go on, regarding vulgarity and culture:

    1. Vulgarity in works of art reduces the quality of the art. Vulgarity in works of art results in inferior or decadent culture. Well, Crouch praises the actor for her amazing talent, and he would presumably also like the movie somewhat--despite the probable carpet-f-bombing that took place in it. (I haven't seen the movie, this might be an incorrect assumption, I admit.) I do know that Crouch does happen to be a critic of vulgarity in art, but my impression is that he's opposed to the cheap use of it for shock value, and that sort of thing, without (apparently) regarding it as automatically unsuitable or inartistic in all instances.

    2. Vulgarity in private life leads to deterioration of art in a culture. Well, there's no form of art that Crouch loves more than Jazz, and the list of persistently vulgar (in their private lives) greats of Jazz includes a number of his favorite musicians. Louis Armstrong used vulgar language, and his genius happened quite a ways back.

    3. Vulgarity in public situations is bad for "culture" (think: "society"). Some people don't want to hear vulgarity (or see it) when they are going about their daily business. Not everyone happens to be comfortable with it. I'm guessing Crouch is somewhat interested in making this sort of case--even though his example involves an actor at a rather ritzy public occasion being shown on television. It's hard to be sure about the possible ups and downs of this sort of thing throughout history, throughout all times and places, etc.--but I'll bet a lot of people have witnessed a "coarsening" of the public spaces in their lifetimes. It's about being polite or considerate, as far as I'm concerned, more than some sort of threat to culture--especially if we're talking about cultural institutions and art. Anyhow, St. Luke's has made some good points about this one.

    4. The calculated use of vulgarity to get attention/popularity is cheaply stealing from the graceful and sophisticated participants in the public sphere--or at the very least, doing self-harm. Well, with this one, I'm basically trying to provide what I thought was the essence of Crouch's article. I think he makes a good point--it doesn't impress me at all that someone would use the f-bomb in order to cause a stir, or showboat with everyone watching. It clearly wasn't accidental--and she looked really stupid. And her stupidity probably does, to some degree, bring the Academy Awards down a little. But I'm disposed to dislike the show in the first place. Who cares about Awards shows, especially considering what the "Academy" is?

    To me, it isn't a big piece of evidence for some cultural condition. It seems more like an actor wanted to show her "real" self, and communicate to her peers and viewers her real, human amazement at her success, to express her pride and surprise, etc. And--like longtime members of the acting profession sometimes do when speaking as themselves--she did it in an inauthentic and calculated manner. Crouch is right, I think. She wanted to bring power to her expression by the cheap deployment of vulgarity.

    But, as to the first two avenues of discussion I tried to point to above (and a lot of others, I guess), I don't see how they connect in any decisive way with Crouch's article or the Melissa Leo incident. The myriad manifestations and effects/non-effects of vulgarity in our culture as a whole aren't at all reducible to the point he made in the article.

  15. #30
    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    Toynbee author of a 12-volume book of history, would agree with you, as well as James Burnham, author of
    The Suicide of the West.
    Thank you for the information, I don't generally read books that confirm what my experience has taught me but I am something of a history buff and will seek Burnham's book out. I have Googled Burnham and note that he moved from the wishful thinking of the left to the realism of the right. There's nothing like personal experience in making an accurate assessment of anything. I'm not making comparisons, of course, but I have also travelled the hell bound road of good intentions and have long ago learned the lesson.
    Last edited by Emil Miller; 03-20-2011 at 07:11 PM.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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